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Police add 23 officers to ranks

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Gwinnett County Police Department added 23 members to its family Thursday night.

The 80th graduating class from the Gwinnett County Police Academy pinned on their badges and officially became officers, completing 21 weeks of grueling training.

"We all grew to be one big family," class spokeswoman Officer Dana Schwark said to her fellow graduates, laughing.

"A pretty dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. We made it guys."

The nearly two dozen graduates and their families and friends crowded into the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Thursday, as new and veteran officers alike reflected on and joked about the long journey through academy.

Video highlights of various officers' reactions to being maced and Tasered drew the greatest laughter.

"You and your family should be proud of all you've achieved," Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters said in his address. "You are one of the select few who have passed the long and arduous selection process, as only one in 30 applicants go on to be where you are now."

County Chairman Charles Bannister was also there to offer his encouragement, saying that, "our police department is always our No. 1 priority."

While the graduates eagerly awaited the final ceremonies, Chief Walters stressed not only hard work and dedication to his newest breed of officers, but compassion for the residents they will now serve.

"Welcome to our family," Walters said. "I hope you have the best, longest, greatest careers."